In 2018, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced that cocaine across the state of Florida was contaminated with fentanyl and its analogs. Fentanyl is a potent opioid that’s 100 times more powerful than morphine. The authorities also found carfentanil, which is similar but more powerful, around 100,000 times more powerful than morphine. They tested seized cocaine and found 180 different instancesof fentanyl contamination.
People taking fentanyl without realizing it may take a dangerously high dose, thinking it’s a standard dose of cocaine. According to the DEA, this opioid contamination has contributed to cocaine-related deaths. In 2016, Florida saw 36 cocaine-related deaths each month, and 84 of those involved carfentanil.
But how widespread is this deadly combination?
The DEA released a similar report in Pennsylvania. In New York City, 37 percent of cocaine-related deaths also involved fentanyl. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 19,000 of the 42,000 overdose deaths in 2016 involved fentanyl, which means this powerful synthetic opioid is partially to blame for nearly half of the nation’s overdose epidemic. Fentanyl can be injected, snorted, smoked, or taken orally. It can also be blended with other drugs like cocaine easily.
Why is Fentanyl Dangerous?
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that’s used in medical settings all the time. However, illicit fentanyl has led to overdoses and fatalities all over the country. What makes it so dangerous? For one, fentanyl is just more potent than most drugs you might encounter on the street. A lethal dose for the average person is about 2 to 3 milligrams, which is about the weight of a single snowflake.
In medical settings, professionals have the expertise and equipment to effectively create medications with a small enough amount to be helpful without being dangerous. Illicit drug dealers may not have the expertise, ability, or desire to painstakingly create drugs with a safe amount of fentanyl. It may be included to increase the potency of heroin or other drugs to make it seem like the drug is higher quality. But even a small amount of the drug can be dangerous.
Regular heroin users may be able to take more fentanyl without experiencing a fatal overdose. But if heroin contains just 0.7 percent fentanyl, it is likely to be fatal. At the same time, cocaine users who don’t use opioids will not have a tolerance to fentanyl and are more susceptible to harm.
Like other opioids, fentanyl depresses the central nervous system and causes a feeling of euphoria, sedation, and fatigue. In high doses, it can cause your nervous system to slow down to a dangerous degree. More specifically, your breathing will slow to the point where you may suffer oxygen deprivation, brain damage, coma, or death.
A drug called naloxone is used to reverse opioid overdoses and can save the lives of people who encounter fentanyl. However, fentanyl is so powerful that it may require multiple doses of the medication, and it needs to be administered quickly.
How to Tell If Coke Is Laced?
Cocaine is a drug that has been glorified in television shows, movies, and Hollywood. There have been many jokes floating around about the drug, such as cocaine is God’s way of saying you have too much money. Jokes aside, with an estimated 15 percent of Americans admitting to trying the drug, it’s not a laughing matter. While experimentation doesn’t mean a person will become instantly addicted, in a world where fentanyl exists, using cocaine just once can be fatal. Many of us still think of the drug from a simpler time in the 80s and 90s, where it was much purer. However, today, we’re contending with fentanyl cocaine, proving just how far we are from those simpler times.
Cocaine comes in different forms, but the most common is a fine white powder that people snort. As was discussed about living in different times, cocaine today is generally laced with other substances that don’t add to the effects of the cocaine – it’s solely to stretch the profits of the person selling it. These include sugar, talcum powder, or cornstarch. In other cases, cocaine might be cut with procaine, which is a local anesthetic that numbs a small location, amphetamine, and as of late, fentanyl.
If you’re wondering how to tell if coke is laced, that’s difficult to do without proper testing. If you want to tell if coke has fentanyl, you’ll need to purchase a fentanyl detection test. However, your best bet is to assume the cocaine has fentanyl and avoid it. Pure cocaine smells like gasoline or paint, while some descriptions consider it earthy or like salt. The smell is described differently by many people because upon inhalation and how it reacts in your body, it’s hard to explain and describe, but how does it look?
While pure cocaine has a distinct look, it’s hard to tell if it’s pure by simply observing it. It can easily be cut and laced with substances that look the same, such as fentanyl, another white powder. If you’re lucky, the drug will only be cut with flour, sugar, or baby powder. It’s tricky to determine the purity, which makes it so dangerous because you don’t know what you’re going to inhale, ingest, or inject into your body.
Side Effects of Fentanyl
Like morphine, heroin, and every other opioid on the planet, fentanyl works by binding to your body’s opioid receptors. These are found in areas of the brain that control emotions and pain. When a person uses opioids many times, their brains adapt to the drug, diminishing the sensitivity and making it harder to feel pleasure from anything besides the drug. However, a person that doesn’t use opioids regularly and accidentally ingests a potent opioid like fentanyl can suffer an instant overdose. If you’re expecting the stimulating sensation of cocaine and fentanyl, it can be a lot to handle and will likely be fatal.
The most common side effects of fentanyl include the following:
- Extreme happiness
- Problems with breathing
As was mentioned above, an overdose on fentanyl is possible, and it can produce severe adverse side effects and other life-threatening symptoms. If you ingest cocaine and it’s laced with fentanyl, the individual’s breathing can slow or stop. It can decrease the amount of oxygen that reaches the brain, something known as hypoxia. Hypoxia can lead to coma, permanent brain damage, and death.
If you get a batch of cocaine that’s laced with fentanyl and witness an overdose, you must call 911 immediately. There is no time to wait – seconds are crucial in saving the person from permanent brain damage or death. Let the 911 operator know the individual has overdosed. If you can, tell them what drug they were using. The first responders can typically determine if it’s cocaine or opioid overdose upon arrival.
How is Illicit Fentanyl Distributed?
Fentanyl has been found in many forms and in several substances, including heroin, cocaine, meth, and prescription opioids. Illicit fentanyl is made in clandestine laboratories and sold on the black market. The recent influx of fentanyl trafficking can be traced to transnational criminal organizations. The drug is sold in powders, blotter paper, eye droppers, nasal sprays, and pills. Pressed pills can look like legitimate prescription pills, including logos.
Fentanyl can make its way into cocaine to produce the same effects a “speedballing,” which is a term used to describe intentionally mixing heroin and cocaine for a unique high. However, mixing opioids and powerful stimulants can cause symptoms like cardiac arrhythmia and other heart-related complications.
Fentanyl is cheap, easy to make, and easy to transport in small but cost-effective packaging. It can be added to otherwise adulterated drugs that may be noticeably weaker than what a drug dealer’s clients are used to. Fentanyl adds extra potency to the weakened substance. Heroin that is diluted with inert substances can be made to feel incredibly pure and powerful. Weakened cocaine can be sold as a speedball.
Can You Tell Fentanyl Apart From Cocaine?
If fentanyl-laced cocaine is becoming more and more of an issue, is it possible to tell the difference before you use? Unfortunately, it’s virtually impossible to tell the difference between typical illicit cocaine and fentanyl-laced cocaine.
Fentanyl in powder form is a white substance that’s nearly identical to powdered cocaine. Other adulterants might change the color of either substance slightly, but other than that, they might look the same. However, even if you could tell the difference, it only takes less than a gram to be active, and 2 grams can be deadly.
Even a light dose of cocaine at 10 milligrams is like a haystack than 2 grams of fentanyl could easily get lost in. Illicit drug use is dangerous on its own, but fentanyl has made it even more dangerous with no real way to get around it safely. Some drug-testing kits can be used to see if your cocaine has fentanyl in it before you use it. Harm reduction services may sell these kits to help people avoid dangerous drug overdoses. However, any kit that doesn’t specifically test for fentanyl shouldn’t be trusted, and not all at-home drug testing kits are foolproof.
How can Cocaine and Opioid Addiction Be Treated?
If you’ve been using cocaine or opioids, and you’re worried that you might have a substance use disorder, it’s important to seek addiction treatment as soon as possible. Each time you use an illicit drug, you risk dangerous consequences. Illicit substances are unpredictable; it’s difficult to know if what you are getting is a safe dose of the drug you know. However, even if you have a severe substance use disorder, it can be treated.
Through medical detox and addiction treatment, you can achieve sobriety, even if you’ve tried and relapsed before. Addiction treatment is designed to provide a personalized treatment plan to individuals that have a substance use disorder. However, treatment also needs to address issues that are directly and indirectly related to drug use, including medical, psychological, social, financial, and legal issues.
Addiction treatment also involves several types of therapies, including individual, family, and group therapy. It may also involve a variety of behavioral therapies, including cognitive behavioral therapy, which is used to learn to identify and cope with triggers.